Signs of Termites in Drywall

Susan Sweet

Termite infestation causes an overwhelming amount of damage to properties each year. In fact, an estimated $5 billion is spent in the U.S. annually on prevention, treatment and repair associated with termites, according to the informational website Termites.com. Early identification is essential.

Termites cause billions of dollars in damage annually to U.S. properties.

While some species can go virtually undetected by the un-trained eye, inspecting the drywall while knowing the possible tell-tale signs of termite activity can help property owners address the situation sooner rather than later.

Mud Tunnels

Subterranean termites construct mud tunnels or "tubes" as a means of traveling from their underground colony to their "worksite." Tunnels are composed of soil, wood and saliva; and while easily spotted on drywall, they can also run across nearly any surface -- concrete, window screens, aluminum or vinyl siding -- as a means of safe passage for two-way traffic. While mud tunnels are a sure sign of termite activity, the tunnels themselves may be spotted long after the termites are gone. Following treatment by a professional, the tunnel can be brushed away and drywall can be touched up with paint. The property owner should see if the tunnel returns anywhere in the vicinity before determining the success of treatment.

Exit Holes

All three types of termites (Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood) have colony members that swarm. Resembling flying ants, the sole purpose of swarming termites is to find new worksites and reproduce at those sites to form new colonies. Most swarmers exit through an opening in the mud tunnel while others such as Drywood swarmers create exit holes that are about 1/8 inch in diameter and may impact drywall if termites have infested the framing. These holes can be difficult to detect, however, since soon after use the holes are repaired by nymph termites with a concrete-like mixture consisting of feces. Patching may still be required to properly repair drywall damage.

Bubbling or Cracking Paint

Termites thrive in environments that offer darkness and moisture. If termite activity is taking place just below the surface of the drywall, painted surfaces may display a bubbling or peeling effect due to the moisture build-up between the drywall and paint fostered by the termite colony. Likewise, if the structure beneath the surface has been compromised due to termite damage, the paint may crack or appear deflated as the structural support changes.


Local directories and Internet sites can guide property owners toward reliable companies specializing in the exclusive treatment and prevention of termites. Informational websites help users find a professional versed in the particular species common to their region. Certain regions are more prone to termite activity than others. If neighboring properties are experiencing termite issues, a regular inspection of ceilings and walls for signs of activity is a wise preventative measure.